POTTING BENCH 101
Six tips for a fabulously functional gardening station
WRITTEN BY CLAIRE MCARTHUR
PHOTOS BY JAMIE KINGHAM
Adorn your potting bench with handmade pottery, like these water pitchers made by local potter Jacy Robinson at The Wedge Ceramics Studio
I remember, when I was growing up, sitting outside on warm summer days watching my mom kneel in the garden, weeding and pruning, before going to repot a new plant into an old boot or vintage lard container she’d found at the antique store. Our yard was her happy place, and it constantly evolved, eventually including an array of trellised plants, pots, sculptures, bird baths, and feeders.
Even her potting bench, a vintage wrought-iron station with vine-like detailing, was a reflection of her aesthetic, but it also was where much of her garden magic took place. It was home to a large bundle of twine with shears nestled inside; a copper watering can; and a shovel, spade, and digging fork hung from the upper shelf. Antique pots and various soils rested on the bottom ledge. It was the sort of perfectly imperfect vignette that you’d find in the English gardens my mom so admired.
To this day, fiddling in my garden and organizing my potting bench takes me back to that carefree feeling I had out in my mom’s garden as a youth. Early on, I learned that a potting bench can be a disorganized catch-all for your gardening supplies, or it can be a beautiful accessory to your garden that also houses the tools you need to create a healthy, vibrant space.
This summer, we’ve rounded up six helpful tips for crafting a well-curated yet functional potting bench.
Sam Stremmel, co-owner of Reno’s Sierra Water Gardens, always keeps a brush near her potting bench
1. Old is new.
While you certainly can purchase new potting benches from garden centers or home-improvement stores, repurposing old furniture can result in a distinctive gardening hub that’s full of character. Dressers, sofa tables, vanities, sideboards, or hutches are great options for creating a potting bench. Choose an outdoor-safe paint or stain to add more flair.
2. Stock up on soil.
Stremmel pots a rosemary plant
Sam Stremmel, co-owner of Reno’s Sierra Water Gardens, knows the importance of keeping a well-stocked potting station: She constantly has customers coming into her shop to pot all sorts of plants. Stremmel keeps a plentiful stock of indoor and outdoor potting mix by Good Dirt on hand at all times. Though Stremmel keeps hers outside because it gets used up quickly, she recommends storing soil in a closed container when not in use, so it maintains its moisture.
3. Make time for tools.
Stremmel says her hori hori is an invaluable tool for gardeners
No potting bench is complete without an arsenal of tools. Shovels, spades, hoes, shears, and other tools can be neatly stored at the potting bench using screw-in hooks, a peg board, wooden crates, or baskets. But Stremmel usually needs just one tool on hand: the hori hori. “It doubles as a shovel and a serrated knife,” she says. “This is my favorite tool in the garden. You can cut apart plants, you can dig trenches, and you can weed.”
4. Feed your plants.
You can find hundreds of fertilizers on the market, but for Mike Bailey, owner of Flower Tree Nursery in Fallon, the two standout brands for keeping plants healthy in this region are Dr. Earth and Grow More. “Everyone has their personal preference, but these two are very good,” Bailey says.
5. Water gently.
Though it may be tempting to quickly hose down a newly potted plant, keeping a watering can on hand at your potting station is a much better option. “Sometimes the soil is really loose and you end up washing out a lot of the soil that you just planted in there,” Stremmel says. “A gentler stream from a watering can is more effective.”
6. Accessorize it.
Stremmel’s potting bench was custom made to be both beautiful and versatile
While a potting bench, first and foremost, is a functional space, don’t let that keep you from making it beautiful, too. Try adorning the area with already-potted plants; bowls of pretty stones, sand, or moss to add to your pots; garden-themed signs; and other lovely knick-knacks.
Claire McArthur is an avid gardener (read: plant hoarder) who always would rather be outside. She can tell you with certainty that Sierra Water Gardens’ plant store is a slice of (stylish) heaven.
Sierra Water Gardens
Features an indoor retail space that offers succulents, air plants, indoor plants, and gifts.
2135 Dickerson Road, Reno
775-345-5806 • Sierrawatergardens.com
Flower Tree Nursery
2975 Reno Hwy., Fallon
775-423-1113 • Find Flower Tree Nursery on Facebook